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Indian farmers continue anti-deregulation protests, occupy public spaces

By News Desk

Inspite of Indian Government’s deployment of police and paramilitary forces to intimidate farmers and others protesting against decisions to deregulate the country’s agricultural sector, the protesters have continued their demonstration, pressing on with protests in and around the national capital, New Delhi.

The protesters, who were said to have divided themselves into groups, on Saturday blocked major roads into the capital while other groups moved to the capital to express their displeasure against agricultural deregulation policy

Continuation of the protest came a day after clashes ended with an agreement that the farmers could demonstrate in the capital, tensions rose again in the protests over laws that farmers fear could rob them of minimum guaranteed prices for their produce.

The police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters before letting them march into the capital and stage a protest at a designated site.

The farmers, who arrived in trucks, buses, and tractors at Delhi’s Singhu border with Haryana , blocked the main northern highway into the capital on Saturday morning, chanting slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and waved the red, yellow, and green flags of farmer’s unions.

They appeared ready for a long sit-in and refused to relocate to a designated protest site, raising fears of fresh clashes between security forces and protesters.

It was learnt that both security forces and protesting farmers have installed barricades at their strongholds to prevent a repeat of the previous clashes.

A 75years old farmer, Harbhajan Singh, from Amritsar in the major northern farming state of Punjab, said he and others were carrying provisions and were prepared to camp out pending when the government would reverse its decision.

Singh, who said that they hope farmers from other states would join the protests to pressure the government, said: “We have been harassed by the government. We want a special parliament session for withdrawal of the new farm laws”.

Also condemning the policy, opposition Congress Party leader, Rahul Gandhi, slammed the government and said: “Our slogan was, ‘Hail the Soldier, Hail the Farmer,’ but today PM Modi’s arrogance made the soldier stand against the farmer. This is very dangerous”.

The new policy introduced in September, let farmers sell their produce anywhere, including to big corporate buyers like Walmart Inc, not just at government-regulated wholesale markets where growers are assured of a minimum procurement price.

But many small growers worry they will be left vulnerable to big business and could eventually lose the price supports for key staples such as wheat and rice.

The government says there is no plan to eliminate wholesale markets and that farmers have the choice of buyers. It hopes the deregulation attracts agricultural investment and fixes supply chains that lose one-fourth of India’s produce to wastage.

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